The value in creating a shared vision

The value in creating a shared vision

Creating a shared vision visioning

Creating a vision is essential in any change process because a vision offers us a strong mental image of something we want to create in the future and it can motivate us towards that future. When the vision involves others, then engaging them in a shared vision is extremely valuable. It is more powerful than developing a strategy particularly if it is developed as an image rather than using words.
It is particularly powerful in inspiring people to work collaboratively with leaders and engage in their future.

I was discussing vision recently with a coaching client and was reminded of the work of Marjorie Parker with the Norwegian company, Hydro Aluminum. For me, this  is such a powerful example of creating a vision that worked in very practical terms that I want to share it with you here.

In the 1980ties a new MD was appointed to one of the Norwegian plants, Karmoy Fabrikker (KF) which was coming out of a period of crisis, and Ms Parker was invited in to work with him. As a result of early discussions, a vision was created for a future state of Karmoy. This was based around a garden metaphor that was drawn up by a local artist and was then presented to the workforce to inspire them to design their interpretation of the vision for their parts of the organisation.

As a practical measure of the success of the whole exercise it is noticeable that there was a recorded increase in productivity of 33% over a three year period when the process was developing, and in addition, safety increased and environmental emissions decreased.

So what are the lessons that can be taken from this example? There are many reflections which are included in the book, Creating Shared Vision by Marjorie Parker, and I have noted several here.

  • There was an initial assumption in the company that employees are responsible people, have a desire to make a difference, and that the employer has an obligation to ensure that employees reach their potential.
  • There was an attitude that a long term approach to competitive advantage was needed.
  • Visioning opened up possibilities for all employees within KF to have clear direction and to have permission to discuss the future and how best to organize their work.
  • Employees have taken the opportunity to develop their ideas and have opened up their creativity.

Do you have any examples of creating an inspirational vision to share?

Employee engagement and its importance to success

Employee engagement and its importance to success

Happy Business People In MeetingA recent report on the global state of employee engagement estimates that it is in decline.  However those companies that buck the trend have found that they have experienced higher returns. The evidence is compelling.

A report in 2012, Engage for success showed that companies who actively worked on engagement of staff in the UK increased their growth at a rate of around 25% more than those which did not engage.
Kenexa research established the link between engagement and total net income using data from 64 organisations. Organisations with highly engaged employees achieved twice the annual net income (profit) of organisations whose employees lagged behind on engagement, even after controlling for organisation size.
Towers Watson’s 2012 Global Workforce Study  reported that companies with high and sustainable engagement levels had an average one-year operating margin that was close to three times higher than companies with low engagement levels.

So what is employee engagement?

The CIPD  in the UK have defined employee engagement as ‘being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connection to other’.
For me the most important phrase here is being positively present. Being present means actively participating with enthusiasm and not just complying.

Why employee engagement important?

The stastistics and research quoted above speak for themselves, a non engaged workforce will not deliver. They may deliver in the short term however if you are looking for high quality, innovative solutions, a positive approach to change and good customer relationships then evidence suggests that employee engagement is important. It will really get you the buy in of the people who work for you.

How do you engage employees?

Summarising the receommendations of various organisations:

  • Align vision and strategy and have leaders who inspire employees to buy in to this.
  • Motivate, empower and support employees.
  • Have leaders who use a coaching style to work with empowering their team.
  • Have a psychological contract where there is trust, respect and fairness in order for people to share and be engaged

A 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review by Charalambos A. Vlachoutsicos  highlighted some important aspects of communication style that can influence how engaged your employees are. These are important at any level of leadership in organisations and include:

  • To be modest- not to dominate conversations or try and prove that you know it all
  • To listen and show that you are listening
  • To invite disagreement- you don’t have all the answers

Finally I quote from a car worker who reported that before the introduction of team working, ‘it was like you had to leave your brains behind when you entered the factory’.

Imagine how much better companies could work when brains (and hearts) are not only brought into but fully engaged in their work.